Baseball Rallies but Falls to Drew, 10-9, in Landmark Championship Game
BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Senior designated hitter Tom Murray hit a one-out, walk-off home run to give fourth seed Drew University a 10-9 victory over host and top seed Moravian College in the 2012 Landmark Conference Championship game Monday at Gillespie Field after the Greyhounds had scored four runs in the top of the ninth to cap a seven run comeback to tie the game.
The Rangers, who were making their first-ever Landmark Conference Tournament appearance, improve to 22-19 on the year and earn an automatic berth to the 2012 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament that begins on Wednesday, May 16 by going 3-0 in the tournament.
Moravian finishes its 2012 season with an overall record 28-16. The Greyhounds would have needed to win twice Monday to win the conference title. For the fourth time in five seasons of the Landmark Conference, the top seed and host did no win the tournament title. The Greyhounds' title in 2010 is the only year the host won the championship.
Senior shortstop Dave Zubia was hit by a pitch to start the game for Moravian, which was the visiting team because of working through the loser's bracket, and he moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore second baseman Daniel Seitzinger. However, Drew starting pitcher freshman Matthew Hunter would get a line out and a ground out to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the first inning, junior outfielder Michael Bodden led off with an infield single before a bunt single from senior first baseman Steve DeBonis and a walk by Murray loaded the bases with no outs. The Rangers would take a 1-0 lead on an RBI fielder choice by freshman second baseman Steve Kowalski for the second out of the inning and sending Bodden across the plate. Moravian starter sophomore Robert Solano would get a grounder to end the inning and keep the Drew lead at 1-0 after an inning of action.
Moravian would put two runners on base in the top of the second on two out singles from sophomore outfielder Harrison Fonteix and senior catcher Blake Shortall but Fonteix would be thrown out at third on a stolen base attempt to end the inning.
Drew would threaten to extend its lead in the home half of the second inning. Freshman second baseman Michael Chiarella led off with a walk, and with two outs, Bodden drew a walk and DeBonis was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Solano forced Murray in a ground ball right back to him to end the inning without a run scoring.
The Greyhounds would put a runner in scoring position again in the top of the third inning when Zubia singled with one out and stole second base. Seitzinger hit a ground out to get Zubia to third but another ground out would strand Zubia at third.
The Rangers extended their lead with a run in the bottom of the third inning. Senior third baseman Pete Tuchol led off with a single down the left field line before Kowalski was hit by a pitch. Senior outfielder Drew Obergfell put down a sacrifice bunt to move Tuchol and Kowalski over a base before Tuchol scored on a wild pitch by Solano for a 2-0 lead. The Greyhounds would work out of the inning without another runner crossing the plate.
After the Greyhounds went down in order in the top of the fourth, Drew would push three runs across the plate in the bottom half of the inning. Bodden walked to start the inning for the Rangers, and DeBonis reached on an error that allowed Bodden to move to third. Murray would draw a walk off of Moravian relief pitcher sophomore Jason Jamula to load the bases. Tuchol followed with a two-RBI single up the middle off of the glove of a diving Zubia to score Bodden and DeBonis. Kowalski had a sacrifice bunt to move Murray and Tuchol to second and third. Obergfell drew a walk to load the bases before Moravian sophomore Chris Soltys came into pitch. Chiarella would connect on an RBI single through the right side to score Murray and make the Drew lead 5-0. The Greyhounds would turn a double play to end the inning.
Moravian would get on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth inning with a pair of runs to cut Drew's advantage to 5-2. Fonteix led off the top fifth inning with a double off fence in left field, and he scored on an RBI single up the middle by Shortall. Shortall moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt, and he scored on an RBI bunt single from sophomore outfielder Joseph Connell. Hunter would work out of the inning for the Rangers.
Junior outfielder Neil Cashes drew a leadoff walk for Drew in the bottom of the fifth but a fly out and a double play would end the inning.
The Greyhounds would get a runner in the top of the sixth when Fonteix drew a walk with two outs but a fly out would get Drew out of the inning.
Tuchol would reach second with one out in the bottom of the sixth for the Rangers on a Moravian throwing error. Kowalski followed with a walk, and after an out, Chiarella hit an RBI single to right field, bringing Tuchol to the plate and extending the Drew lead to 6-2. Sophomore Matthew Kaplon drew a walk to load the bases again for the Rangers. Cashes hit a ball towards the first base side of the infield and went for an RBI single to score Kowalski and making the advantage 7-2 for the Rangers. Bodden followed with a two RBI single to center field, scoring Chiarella and Kaplon home and making the lead 9-2.
In the top of the seventh, Seitzinger singled with two outs and moved to second on a wild pitch before Drew would end the inning on a line out by senior first baseman Kevin O'Keefe.
Moravian added three runs in the top of the eighth to cut the Rangers edge to 9-5. Senior third baseman Gregg Steinman led off the inning with a solo home run to left field, his third homer of the season. Senior designated hitter Austin Rock doubled with an out and moved to third on a single by Fonteix. Junior Pat Rock came in relief of Hunter and would hit Shortall to load the bases with one out. Connell followed with an RBI bases loaded walk to score Austin Rock. Zubia hit into an RBI fielder's choice to score Fonteix. Seitzinger flew out to end the threat.
Chiarella walked to begin the bottom of the eighth for Drew. However, the Rangers were unable to score.
In the top of the ninth inning, freshman outfielder Matt Hanson hit an infield single and Austin Rock singled through the left side with two outs. Fonteix followed to load the bases for the Greyhounds. Shortall then connected on a two-RBI single to center field to score Hanson and Rock to cut the Drew lead to 9-7. Connell drew a walk to reload the bases for Moravian. Zubia would then tie the game with a two-RBI single up the middle bringing Fonteix and freshman pinch runner Justin Pilchman across the plate. Pat Rock would strikeout Seitzinger to end the inning.
DeBonis would ground out to start the ninth before Murray hit a 1-1 pitch down the right field line for his third homer of the season.
Moravian finished the game with a 15-9 advantage in hits with Fonteix going four-for-four. Shortall was three-for-four while Zubia and Austin Rock each went two-for-five in their final collegiate games. Chiarella was two-for-two for the Rangers while Bodden was two-for-four and Tuchol went two-for-five.
Pat Rock earned the win in relief to improve to 7-2 on the season. He allowed four runs on five hits and two walks to go with a strikeout in 1.2 innings of action. Hunter gave up five runs, four earned, on ten hits and two walks over 7.1 innings.
The Greyhounds used four pitchers in the game and allowed a total of ten walks in the contest. Solano gave up three runs on three hits and five walks in three-plus innings of action while Jamula allowed two runs, one earned, on a hit and two walks in a third of an inning. Soltys was touched for four unearned runs on four hits and four walks in 3.2 innings while senior Kyle Longernecker took the loss after giving up a run on a hit to go with a walk and a strikeout in 1.1 innings.
Moravian's senior class of Zubia, O'Keefe, Steinman, Rock, Shortall, Longernecker and senior pitcher Brendan Close closed out their career with a record of 106-60, the most wins by a graduating class in school history, four trips to the Landmark Conference Tournament and the school's first-ever Landmark Conference title and a trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament in 2010.